Lane Kiffin admitted he was worried about playing unranked Memphis.
"We worked all work to make sure we didn't have a letdown this week," Kiffin said after his team defeated Memphis, 56-28. "We had no black jerseys, we weren't playing on primetime so we as coaches established a sense of urgency by the way we coached our team and how we called the game."
Kiffin went for it on fourth down; with a 14-0 lead over Memphis the Vols kicked an onside kick. With a 35-0 lead, the Vols didn't ease off the gas pedal but accelerated instead to a 42-7 halftime lead.
"We couldn't afford a letdown," Kiffin admitted. "The players had to realize how important this win was."
Kiffin knew that Memphis had 12 days to prepare to stop the Volunteers' running attack. He expected the Tigers to load the box to stop the run. They did just that, but Kiffin had other plans.
"We wanted to come out and throw the ball around," Kiffin said. "Jonathan had a great game. Their coaches said all week they planned on stopping the run. We knew after how well we ran the ball last week they would focus on that."
Kiffin stressed all week to his team that the Vols had to score early and score often, that they were not going to take the Tigers for granted.
True freshman David Oku gave Kiffin the early spark he was looking for Saturday evening. On the opening kickoff the talented athlete took the kick almost all the way back to the end zone. He gained 69 yards on the return and was stopped before scoring at the 24-yard line. It didn't take the Vols long before getting on the scoreboard.
"We have done a great job all season when we get great field position," Kiffin said after the game. "We needed a quick start. We wanted to jump on them early and often."
Clicking on all cylinders early, the Vols coasted to a 35-point halftime lead. It was the second half that disappointed the head coach a little.
"We weren't happy at the end how we finished," Kiffin said. "We have to establish better depth. We have to bring some guys along and we have to recruit. We were not satisfied how we played on defense in the second half."
Kiffin didn't hesitate to substitute early in the third quarter, allowing the Tigers to score 21 second-half points.
Did Kiffin use a few things that Memphis coach Tommy West had to say to motivate his team this week.
"It really didn't bother me; I'm getting use to stuff like that," Kiffin said with a laugh. "It seemed to get our team fired up a little. We told them all week that for us to accomplish what we want to this season, this game was very important to us."
Tight end Luke Stocker admitted that West's jokes about Kiffin did motivate the team.
"Coach Kiffin has our back all the time," Stocker said. "We have his back as well. Anytime someone talks about him they are talking about us."
West told a not very funny joke about a man and a dog with Tennessee's first-year coach as the punchline during a luncheon earlier in the year.
It appears Kiffin and his team got the last laugh - the 56-point onslaught against the Tigers was more entertaining for Tennessee fans than West's attempt at humor.